ShalomPlace.com    Shalom Place Community    Shalom Place Discussion Groups  Hop To Forum Categories  General Discussion Forums  Hop To Forums  Christian Spirituality Issues    The "Buddhification" of Christian contemplative spirituality
Page 1 2 3 

Moderators: Phil
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
The "Buddhification" of Christian contemplative spirituality Login/Join 
posted Hide Post
Tarantella,

you seem to describe a state of a "formless absorption" or the "fourth state" (turiya) in Indian thought. In Hindu and Buddhist mysticism there are schools which focus on maintaining awareness during changing natural states of consciousness, especially during sleep. Ken Wilber, in fact, is very much into this practice. However, these are - in your own words - "odd and occasional experiences", while the real achievement seems to be integration of spiritual awareness with daily activities.

In the Christian tradition there is a bit about prayer during sleep, but it is seen as a sheer gift and not something that can be practiced. Many mystics described that they were experiencing contemplative prayer while asleep (so there must have been some awareness). Also Plotinus in the West spoke about "sleepless wakefulness" of the deep layers of our spirit.

Such absorption states are not a part of my spiritual life. I experienced it only once which was the beginning of my conversion. But I'm not sure if that was what you describe, since I didn't feel like being alone in a dark room. I just "lost" 30 minutes, wasn't asleep, didn't remember any of it, but after coming out of this state I experienced joy, peace, love and my life just started to change. I believed in God, I loved God. But I don't remember being there during those 30 minutes, maybe since I've never experienced anything spiritual before. "Losing time" in prayer happen quite often, in the sense that I don't feel the time at all, but I'm not sure if this is absorption, since I don't remember anything. I guess we just should receive such experiences as they come, be grateful, but not overemphasize them.

I admit I don't understand how your post is intended to connect with what we've been discussing? Did you want to add something to the understanding of "non-duality"? Because in fact what you describe is dual, in the sense that you describe states that are separate from daily functioning - one moment there is no body, the other - the body is back again. There is duality "spirit/body". Which for me is not a bad thing in itself, just an insight into our nature.
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
Fr. Alois Weisinger's Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology has been extremely helpful to me in its deep understanding of human nature and its potentialities. The book was written in 1957 and is Thomistic in its anthropology, but Fr. Weisinger is also well acquainted with other world religions and psychology. What he makes clear is that a great many experiences can be explained in terms of the soul's spiritual nature, and that the powers of the soul are not completely taken up in the life of the body. He thus speaks of the partly body-free soul that functions in a manner similar to all pure spirits.
quote:
When therefore I speak of the partly body-free soul, I am not suggesting that there is a substantial separation from the body, but that its purely spiritual powers reach beyond the body's domain and that in this way it is empowered to perform feats in which the body has no part, or simply an abnormal one. (p. 56)
The book proposes that a great many occult/psychic experiences can be explained in light of this understanding of the partly body-free soul, including many of the mystical experiences and spiritualities of the Far East. He believes many of these human powers were active before the Fall, and that we have been striving to regain them since. Even partial success does not lead to union with God, however.
quote:
But man never gets further than the gateway, "the threshold of a world behind whose doors eternal life lies hidden. . . " "A connection between God and the soul that was really a union between two persons was never attained. Yet it was only such a connection that could assuage the deepest longings." (p. 270)

Of course, some Christologies (e.g., Rahner) would not confine the action of Christ and the Spirit to the Christian religion alone. It would be a stretch, however, to consider Buddhism an example of this kind of Logos spirituality.
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Thanks for the reference to the book, it's available on www.archive.org, so I may take a look.
It seems that it's interesting, inasmuch there are attempts in the Church to attribute all occult phenomena to the influence of the devil and demons.

In Poland there is this guy who, a bit like Shasha, had some occult/metaphysical experiences mixed with demonic presence, then he converted and now he writes books and is an activist. He seems honest in his attempts to protect people from demons, but his thinking (if it's thinking) is simple: if anything has to do with Hinduism, yoga, Buddhism, tai-chi, magic, kundalini or anything Eastern, it's automatically influenced by the demons. It becomes absurd, since according to him practicing Asian martial arts or burning an incense stick can "invite" the demonic forces, not mentioning reading Harry Potter books. I stopped treating him seriously, when he said in an interview that J.R.R. Tolkien also is dangerous, since one of the main characters is Gandalf the Grey who is a wizard. Well, accusing Tolkien who did more for showing the beauty of Christianity to people than many preachers, and who was a deeply God-loving person, of any intent to actually promote real magic is just crazy. That's a pity that even intelligent people cannot see that there can be something between God and the devil in the realm of the phenomena unexplainable to our modern mind (although the fact is that in the Middle Ages people would probably also see things in such God/devil simplistic way).
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
Yes, that's the book, Mt. Amazing that you can get it online like that.

There really ought to be a kind of "Occam's Razor" approach to all these special phenomena (including enlightenment), in the sense that if they can be explained in terms of natural causes (including Weisinger's "partly body-free soul), then there's no need to invoke supernatural explanations. It seems that human nature itself is capable of accounting for a wide range of perceptual and psychic phenomena!
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Been wondfering about brain scans offering a piece of the puzzle. Such as comparing Christian prayer affect on brain vs. Eastern practices.



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...ivity_n_1974621.html


http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/med...nd-brain-update-2014
 
Posts: 386 | Registered: 01 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
I'm still on the first page of this discussion, but I'm so glad we are coming back to discuss all these necessary distinctions, they have been on my mind a lot lately.

I actually came to shalomlace today to share a recent (October 2014) reflection by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (or Fr. Benedict as he has asked to be called) on Catholic Faith, Missions, and other Religions. Here is a quote from the introduction:

quote:
But is this [evangelical Christian mission] still possible? Many ask this question, both inside and outside the Church. Is this mission really possible in the world as it is today? Would it not be more appropriate that all religions get together and work together for the cause of peace in the world? The counter-question is: Can dialogue substitute for mission? Today many have the idea, in effect, that religions should respect each other, and, in dialogue with each other, become a common force for peace. In this way of thinking, most times there is a presupposition that the various religions are variants of one and the same reality; that “religion” is a category common to all, which assumes different forms according to different cultures, but expresses, however, one and the same reality. The question of truth, which at the beginning of Christianity moved Christians more than anything else, in this mode of thinking is placed within parentheses. It presupposes that the authentic truth about God, in the last analysis, is unobtainable, and that at best one can make present what is ineffable only with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems convincing and useful for peace among the religions of the world.

This is, however, lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and seriousness, if everything is reduced to symbols that are at the end interchangeable, capable of referring only from afar to the inaccessible mystery of the divine.


The full text can be found here.
 
Posts: 715 | Location: South Africa | Registered: 12 August 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
Welcome back, Jacques. Great quote from "Fr. Benedict." Goes right to the heart of the matter.
quote:
The question of truth, which at the beginning of Christianity moved Christians more than anything else, in this mode of thinking is placed within parentheses.

Or quotations. It's especially difficult for post-modernerers to speak of truth, as there is considerable pessimism concerning absolutes or even objective truth. Of course, the kind of truth Benedict is speaking of flows from a priori convictions rooted in faith, and what needs to be acknowledged is that every religion has its own faith convictions.

Nevertheless, world religions, non-profits, multinational corporations, and individuals of good will can come together to support many kinds of projects, especially concerning justice and peace. It would be silly to think that the world religions would need to collapse into one another to do this effectively. Such an idea seems to presuppose that religions are so antagonistic toward one another as to be primary sources of injustice and war, but that's simply not true, except for the case of Islamism, which would require that all religions bow to their beliefs. Won't happen. Smiler
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mt:
Tarantella,

you seem to describe a state of a "formless absorption" or the "fourth state" (turiya) in Indian thought. In Hindu and Buddhist mysticism there are schools which focus on maintaining awareness during changing natural states of consciousness, especially during sleep. Ken Wilber, in fact, is very much into this practice. However, these are - in your own words - "odd and occasional experiences", while the real achievement seems to be integration of spiritual awareness with daily activities.

In the Christian tradition there is a bit about prayer during sleep, but it is seen as a sheer gift and not something that can be practiced. Many mystics described that they were experiencing contemplative prayer while asleep (so there must have been some awareness). Also Plotinus in the West spoke about "sleepless wakefulness" of the deep layers of our spirit.

Such absorption states are not a part of my spiritual life. I experienced it only once which was the beginning of my conversion. But I'm not sure if that was what you describe, since I didn't feel like being alone in a dark room. I just "lost" 30 minutes, wasn't asleep, didn't remember any of it, but after coming out of this state I experienced joy, peace, love and my life just started to change. I believed in God, I loved God. But I don't remember being there during those 30 minutes, maybe since I've never experienced anything spiritual before. "Losing time" in prayer happen quite often, in the sense that I don't feel the time at all, but I'm not sure if this is absorption, since I don't remember anything. I guess we just should receive such experiences as they come, be grateful, but not overemphasize them.

I admit I don't understand how your post is intended to connect with what we've been discussing? Did you want to add something to the understanding of "non-duality"? Because in fact what you describe is dual, in the sense that you describe states that are separate from daily functioning - one moment there is no body, the other - the body is back again. There is duality "spirit/body". Which for me is not a bad thing in itself, just an insight into our nature.



Prayer during sleep would be lucid dreaming which may creep into ones existence with any daily activity that one focuses on diligently.

You can of course be knocked 'unconscious' into this '4th state'. Other shock or trauma may place you there for a period to heal and recover. Likewise more pleasurable experiences might put you there for a short duration.

The Kundalini process may propel you there after flushing out the unconscious mind and then shutting down the conscious mind (in that order).

Prolonged experience of that state may introduce occasional forays back into the lucid dream state, normal dreaming, normal deep sleep or into another nothingness state which of course is only appreciated when awareness returns and is a bit like one is being abruptly switched on and off.

I would suggest that these are natural functions of human experience and are of course non denominational and not even the reserve of the spiritually minded.
 
Posts: 34 | Registered: 11 February 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Prayer during sleep is not lucid dreaming. Prayer during sleep is prayer during sleep. Smiler
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
You've really hung in there through all these meandering discussions through the years, Mary Sue. Smiler Glad to hear you've found them helpful!

I know the "relaxation response" (as it's sometimes called) from TM and other meditative methods has many health benefits. I believe there's research showing that you don't need to use a special Sanskrit phrase for the mantra -- almost any word will do. It all goes against the grain of texting and spending lots of time on computers, phones, tablets, etc., so is meeting a real need. I think we can affirm all this and encourage these practices for their health benefits. It's more controversial when we give them some kind of religious significance.
quote:
In some of Richard Rohr's recent daily writings it sounds to me that he is mixing Christian and Buddhist practuces with a strong slant towards Buddhist interpretation. Even commented on wanting the freedom from Rome to interpret things his own way. These types of teachings really confused me trying to return to Christian teachings. They still can.

If it's not too much trouble, could you share some examples of what you consider "mixing Christian and Buddhist practices"? Also, the comment on "wanting the freedom from Rome to interpret things his own way." I've heard him say the latter in a couple of talks, but can't recall what they were about.
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Having worked in schools for over 3 decades any method of getting young people to be silent for half an hour is a great thing. Smiler


Far better than teaching about the practice of prayer or the practice of meditation is teaching that there's nothing wrong with being silent, that silence can be a refuge not an admonishment and to watch the mind arising and falling in ourselves and others.

"Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will."

Quote from Elliot of course.
 
Posts: 34 | Registered: 11 February 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Mary Sue, I'm wondering what you mean by

"As I look back a lot of this was coming from my inability to understand what you were saying Phil. All I heard, at the
time was you criticizing God when I experienced a metaphysical event while knowing that God was there also. There was no separation for me. All was God."

I'm not sure. But it reminded me of my first reaction when I read some of James Arraj's reflections on Zen and Christian contemplation. Now I know that I did this in the worst possible time - somewhere on the forum I shared how my Zen experience of no-self and emptiness at one point became a most horrible dark night for me. There was no "me" and I felt, much like Bernadette Roberts, that "there is no personal God". There was only this terrible light which was destroying all "separateness", all distinctions. At the same time, it was liberating and the depths of my spirit were somehow OK with that, but on psychological level it was a total disaster. Anyway, I was just beginning to adjust to this realization, in fact coming out of it into normality, but being in a state of deep aridity, confusion, disorientation, when I found innerexplorations.org. So when I read there that enlightenment is not the same as Christian contemplation, what I understood at that point what that I never experienced true love contemplation (I couldn't recall any of my previous love experiences, I remembered having them, but couldn't "taste" them by thinking of them, so they seemed arid, empty and illusory at that time - in time I realized that for the most part all past is emotionally dead to me, but especially mystical experiences for me are not something I can "lean on" by remembering them).

Emotionally, I reacted as if James Arraj told me: "Your love relationship with God was an illusion, you only experienced enlightenment, which means that you never reached God as a Person. All those years were a great lie, because you were telling yourself you are experiencing God's love, while it was only some emotional climate you tried to force into Zen experience". So you can imagine how I felt. I rejected Arraj's whole thinking, thought it was just plain wrong. For emotional reasons, I had to cling to the idea that this no-self and emptiness experience puts me in contact with God, because otherwise I'd have to admit that I have no contact with God at all. Now I see that the very pain about the idea that I didn't have contact with God proved that I truly loved God, because otherwise I wouldn't care at all. My faith wasn't strong enough to make me see that I possess God by the very act of faith, hope or love, that he is present in me, whether I experience that or not. I needed years of painful purification to become more independent from whatever I experience and feel about God. There was also spiritual pride in my reaction (which I didn't realize at all), namely, that I couldn't imagine myself not having REAL mystical experiences. Crazy, isn't it?

So I'm wondering if you understood and lived Phil's reflections in a similar way? Because I sometimes suspect that the reason why some people cling to the idea that any kind of meditation, apophatic experience is union with God, is that they need to be sure that they are united with God in the best possible way.
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
quote:
Now I see that the very pain about the idea that I didn't have contact with God proved that I truly loved God, because otherwise I wouldn't care at all. My faith wasn't strong enough to make me see that I possess God by the very act of faith, hope or love, that he is present in me, whether I experience that or not.

That's a wonderful insight, Mt. I deeply empathize with your post.

Btw, it's innerexplorations.com not .org. Wouldn't want anyone to miss out on that marvelous site! Smiler
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Phil:

If it's not too much trouble, could you share some examples of what you consider "mixing Christian and Buddhist practices"? Also, the comment on "wanting the freedom from Rome to interpret things his own way." I've heard him say the latter in a couple of talks, but can't recall what they were about.


Phil, I'm pretty sure I kept them. I'll get back with you.
 
Posts: 386 | Registered: 01 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Mt:
Mary Sue, I'm wondering what you mean by

"As I look back a lot of this was coming from my inability to understand what you were saying Phil. All I heard, at the
time was you criticizing God when I experienced a metaphysical event while knowing that God was there also. There was no separation for me. All was God."


Hi MT

My experience was not like Phil's where he had a strong belief & foundation in Christianity
& love of Jesus before kundalini. I didn't have any meaningful foundation in any religion. I didn't have a relationship with Jesus. The love that was being developed with Jesus started at the same time as kundalini. After 3 days/nights of having no memory of what occurred in my life I had a strong drive to study Christian teachings of love. For me everything has been intertwined.

I do have some similar doubts as you expressed. A priest once expressed to me, who was I to be experiencing the things I was claiming to be experiencing! It was true, who was I. Why me, I wasn't even a Christian. I didn't love Jesus until kundalini. Has this all been some kind of lie I've been telling myself. Because I had no other way to explain what was occuring. I do have some wondering about some things. Like can an archetype appear as Jesus,as M. Mary ect? Can one have a loving relationship with Self appearing as Jesus? But this isn't the focus of Phil's questions & may have already been discussed.
 
Posts: 386 | Registered: 01 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
MT
I've spent time exploring this place of emptiness I felt so strongly before. I wrote about how I thought Jesus had died within me. I heard before hand that it was time to put away my favorite picture of Jesus. To let go of who I thought God & Jesus were. I didn't understand what I was being shown at the time. I now know I was shown that through Jesus's crucificition, death & resurrection there is reconcilliation with God.

I did not understand this change . It was so painful for me because my relationship with Jesus didn't seem be there any more. There was a great sense of emptiness within me. I was not God yet I was not separate from Him either. Any thought of God as separate brought a great imbalance in the energy of my body & psyche. A great doubt about this emptiness surfaced after reading BR experience. I see now that I didn't fully trust in God's plan for me.

I'm coming to understand for myself, that this sense of emptiness is not the absence of a relationship with Jesus or God, but is the pointing finger towards the reconcillation with God. I learned that I could still sin & create distance of God's great Peace. Which is what I did regretfully. I'm seeing how I must watch constantly for sinful actions on my part. The emptiness, for me, grows less with sin.

Phil, if this is not within Traditional Christianity could you let me know please. This is
the direction I feel drawn to.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Mary Sue,
 
Posts: 386 | Registered: 01 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Mary Sue, it seems incredible that kundalini opened you to Jesus' love! But - praise the Lord. Why Jesus and someone else, one could ask? Of course, Jung claimed that Jesus is the most powerful symhol of the Self in the Western civilization, but so many people are not drawn to Jesus simply by going deeper into themselves. Especially, with your experiences and history it seems like a grace. In my case, at first, I just loved Jesus without knowing exactly who he is. Only gradually he taught me about himself and drew me closer to his Church.

What you say about emptiness and the connection with Jesus seems to me resonating with my life too, in a way. It sounds like a Traditional Christianity! :-) What really helped me in my way from metaphysical to metaphysical-and-relational was lectio divina, prayerful staying with a phrase from the Scripture. I would recommand the Last Supper in John's gospel, it was very nourishing for me, also St. Paul's letters (the beginnings of Colossians and Ephesians, and 2 chapter of Philippians). Is the Scripture of any help to you?
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mary Sue:
MT
I've spent time exploring this place of emptiness I felt so strongly before. I wrote about how I thought Jesus had died within me. I heard before hand that it was time to put away my favorite picture of Jesus. To let go of who I thought God & Jesus were. I didn't understand what I was being shown at the time. I now know I was shown that through Jesus's crucificition, death & resurrection there is reconcilliation with God.

I did not understand this change . It was so painful for me because my relationship with Jesus didn't seem be there any more. There was a great sense of emptiness within me. I was not God yet I was not separate from Him either. Any thought of God as separate brought a great imbalance in the energy of my body & psyche. A great doubt about this emptiness surfaced after reading BR experience. I see now that I didn't fully trust in God's plan for me.

I'm coming to understand for myself, that this sense of emptiness is not the absence of a relationship with Jesus or God, but is the pointing finger towards the reconcillation with God. I learned that I could still sin & create distance of God's great Peace. Which is what I did regretfully. I'm seeing how I must watch constantly for sinful actions on my part. The emptiness, for me, grows less with sin.

Phil, if this is not within Traditional Christianity could you let me know please. This is
the direction I feel drawn to.
Thank you so much for this. Reading it gives me comfort. Even though I am sure I have never had any kundalini or real Eastern experience, I am going through what I think is desolation as a result of sin as well, as opposed to simply desolation as a sign of spiritual maturity. Thing is, I feel so stuck, helpless, confused, loosing hope. Don't know what to do because of my inner state. I have lost any sense of a relationship or felt love for Jesus and Mary even when I try to force it. To be fair, my prayer life is chaotic at best. There is nothing routine or regular about it, part of my spiritual struggle I guess. To actually centre God in my life in a concrete way. I am 100% sure I used to have a deep felt experience of God, especially Christ himself, though not regularly but frequently enough. Don't even get me started on my filial devotion and affection to Our Lady. Even in my worst of times, I never got to those points where she was far from me. My confidence in her was so great that I knew no matter how much trouble I got myself into I was never really lost because she was always on my lips in all times of trouble, especially the spiritual variety. I was not always a good Catholic but I also never felt that my love for Christ had vanished....not completely anyway.

Too many wrong choices have lead to the past few years which were bad then to the last four months which have been, quite frankly, demonic. I have sinned, I will admit it. In shameful ways. Its so frustrating to me, sometimes I think there really is no point. I think I have committed the sin of despair several times in the last four months, besides the other sins. To be honest, the church's current confusion about whether Pope Francis will go against magisterial teaching on divorce-remarriage have been complete HELL for me. For the first time I truly fear the church may not be true after all. If the church is not true, what could possibly be true? I know at this time, my personal faith in Christ ought to be sustaining but alas! It is at its weakest! It is now I need to fall back on the church, not the other way around. I am in a place I can't describe. I feel guilty because I have basically "thrown away" my "first love" as was described in revelations. I am a backsliden one. At the same time, I feel almost incapable of embracing the sane faith because it now feels more unsure than it has ever felt since my conversion. I want to love Jesus but I feel powerless.

I have been to confession this Monday and attended mass twice and one Rosary by the women in church after daily mass (I joined in) because frankly I feel incapable of individually sustaining a prayer life, almost like its the biggest task since I don't know when. But the Holy Spirit has been slow to return to my heart and I begged him not to harden my heart like Pharaoh (I randomly opened the Bible hoping for a word of encouragement today and guess where it opened up?? yep, Pharaoh and his hard heart!) I don't know if and I don't think I can get back my faith. I think its gone...or is it hope and not faith that is gone? I had a thought that maybe I should just try to "BE" with Jesus without any thought of eternal life or even sanctity but just to try pursue this being with Jesus for its sake, trying to do as he asks just because, just as the life option for ME? Because thinking of the other stuff, sanctity and eternal life, does not fill me with hope but instead with questioning and doubting?!? I am thinking, Even if the other stuff isn't true, I can just try to do my best trying to be with him just because. It sounds nuts but that gives me more peace than thinking of the eternal, ultimate stuff. Like I said I am in a strange place. Can't really recognize it except as a desolation and like I am paying consequences for sins I know I have committed. Its basically being interiorly "stuck" if you get my feeling. Your post may describe something different but it gave me consolation.
 
Posts: 63 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
Great exchanges! Smiler

Mary Sue, what makes us Christian is not our experiences so much as our faith, though there's certainly a relationship between the two. Your experiences led you to Christ, and it's not unheard of that this happen with Eastern-ish experiences. One of the most famous examples is the conversion of Sadhu Sindhar Singh to Christianity.
- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...sion_to_Christianity

Some of what you all are describing sounds like the aridities of the Night of the Senses a la John of the Cross. Affective sweetness and the sure sense of God's loving presence seem nowhere to be found; only dryness and emptiness! But it is not the emptiness of depression; the peace of Christ still holds us, and a new equanimity buoys us up. Once we can get over trying to "feel" something for God, we're OK. We're more able to direct our lives by reason, and make good choices. Prayer generally becomes more contemplative, though it's good to read Scripture and do other devotions as well.

Now some of this might sound like Buddhism, and there surely are points of convergence: e.g., affective detachment, apophatic prayer, awareness, attunement to the present moment, and many other things. But at the level of faith, we are still oriented to God, going to church, serving in community -- living as Christians. And this is all very formative!

Recently I came across a section from the dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, where God speaks to her about spiritually mature Christians. I will pass it on below, as I think it pertains to this exchange:
quote:

A TREATISE OF DISCRETION

How the soul, after having mounted the first step of the Bridge, should proceed to mount the second.

Now comes the second of the three things of which I told you, that is to say: how the soul arrives at perfection, and what she does when she is perfect. This is what she does. Though she perceives that I have withdrawn Myself, she does not, on that account, look back, but perseveres with humility in her exercises, remaining barred in the house of self-knowledge, and, continuing to dwell therein, awaits, with lively faith, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is of Me, who am the fire of charity. How does she await me? Not in idleness, but in watching and continued prayer, and not only with physical, but also with intellectual watching, that is, with the eye of her mind alert, and, watching with the light of faith, she extirpates, with hatred, the wandering thoughts of her heart, looking for the affection of My charity, and knowing that I desire nothing but her sanctification, which is certified to her in the Blood of My Son. As long as her eye thus watches, illumined by the knowledge of Me and of herself, she continues to pray with the prayer of holy desire, which is a continued prayer, and also with actual prayer, which she practices at the appointed times, according to the orders of Holy Church. This is what the soul does in order to rise from imperfection and arrive at perfection, and it is to this end, namely that she may arrive at perfection, that I withdraw from her, not by grace but by sentiment. Once more do I leave her, so that she may see and know her defects, so that, feeling herself deprived of consolation and afflicted by pain, she may recognize her own weakness, and learn how incapable she is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting down to the very root of spiritual self-love, for this should be the end and purpose of all her self-knowledge, to rise above herself, mounting the throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to turn again in its death-struggle, but, with correction and reproof, digging up the root of self-love, with the knife of self-hatred and the love of virtue.”

St. John of the Cross would give much the same counsel many years later.
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
St. Rubia,

I'd just like to say that I do understand what you experience right now. There is nothing anyone could say to comfort you. I could say it will pass (it will!), but it doesn't do any good to hear that. I could say God is still within you, closer than you can imagine (he is), but - again. Perhaps, what comes to my mind, is that we can reach God by acts of the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity. Even if we don't feel anything, don't understand, don't feel love etc., we can make conscious acts, by using words or without words. Just simple saying: "I love you" makes us immediately reach God himself beyond our consciousness and affectivity. Or "I trust you". This may be hard to do, but doing this is crucial.
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mt:
St. Rubia,

I'd just like to say that I do understand what you experience right now. There is nothing anyone could say to comfort you. I could say it will pass (it will!), but it doesn't do any good to hear that. I could say God is still within you, closer than you can imagine (he is), but - again. Perhaps, what comes to my mind, is that we can reach God by acts of the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity. Even if we don't feel anything, don't understand, don't feel love etc., we can make conscious acts, by using words or without words. Just simple saying: "I love you" makes us immediately reach God himself beyond our consciousness and affectivity. Or "I trust you". This may be hard to do, but doing this is crucial.
Thank you, Mt. It did help. Smiler
 
Posts: 63 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
Great exchanges! Smiler

Mary Sue, what makes us Christian is not our experiences so much as our faith, though there's certainly a relationship between the two.
Which makes one question...what really is faith, after all? If I don't have any genuine experience, what is faith? Is it a thought in my head?
quote:
Some of what you all are describing sounds like the aridities of the Night of the Senses a la John of the Cross. Affective sweetness and the sure sense of God's loving presence seem nowhere to be found; only dryness and emptiness! But it is not the emptiness of depression; the peace of Christ still holds us, and a new equanimity buoys us up. Once we can get over trying to "feel" something for God, we're OK. We're more able to direct our lives by reason, and make good choices. Prayer generally becomes more contemplative, though it's good to read Scripture and do other devotions as well.


Phil, I find it impossible not to try and "feel something for God." I genuinely fear that without that effort to feel, I have absolutely nothing. What remains? At least when I try this gives me some proof that I still care a little bit, although the comfort I used to feel in that thought has all but vanished more recently. I don't believe I love Jesus any more and this is because of the sins I have committed, not just because I don't feel something although this is what triggers the whole thing, to my mind.

If I stop trying, basically, I stop caring at all, for me this is a genuine and very big and real threat, that is how I am at the moment. I will forget God completely, fall completely into debauchery and there will be nothing there to say that I am a Christian.

I also have a hard time believing that mine really could be St. John's night of the senses precisely because I have fallen into sins of lust in the last two years or so, before then, I had managed to be over such sins completely. The night is supposed to be a drop in feelings accompanied by a step-up in personal holiness in the midst of all the dryness, but mine is more like a fall from grace or from hopes of sanctity.

I have also been tempted not just to lust but also to abandon my faith and become a Hindu or a Buddhist. I feel I will know happiness there much more than Christianity. Only I cant do it. I can attempt their exercises in a "Christianized" way when I feel particularly desperate/curious sometimes, but what I cant do is decide that I am somehow no longer obligated or belonging to Christ....even though these days sometimes I do have the thought, is he really real, after all? Or, is he here? Or, does he even want me any more after all this? Or is he fed up with my endless fickleness? This hidden sort of sense that I am still a Christian is the ONLY thing that holds me back, otherwise I would be a Hindu already, I'm sure. Like I said, a strange place where I feel incapable of both loving Jesus and rejecting him all at once, like a severe/aggressive form of lukewarmness mixed with a faith crisis.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: St. Rubia,
 
Posts: 63 | Location: Cape Town, South Africa | Registered: 22 October 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Faith? Oh, it's not a thought in your head... It's an act, it's action, but coming not from us, but from God who infuses it. Faith is a loving yes. Yes to the truths that God reveals (He is there, in three Persons, loves us, gave himself to us etc.) and yes to him who opens himself to us. You can say this yes in the midst of all this doubt, turmoik, suffering, despair. Just yes.
 
Posts: 427 | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Hi, St Rubia, It's difficult to tell without seeing you right in front of me, but I get the sense that what you actually need is some quiet time, to let all these inner conflicts settle down.
 
Posts: 947 | Location: Canada | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
posted Hide Post
Thanks for your honest sharing, St. Rubia, and for your caring responses, Mt. and Derek. I know that many can identify with what you're sharing, St. Rubia, and you raise many questions that go to the heart of a number of important issues.

I think Mt's responses about faith are right on. We follow Christ because, like the Apostles who had their struggles as well, we have come to a place where we say, "Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (Jn. 10:68-69) So faith has as its core conviction the truth of Christ and a willingness to follow Him, no matter how we feel.
(Incidentally, this is why I think it's so destructive when people use "personal experience" as their core criterion for discernment.)

quote:
I genuinely fear that without that effort to feel, I have absolutely nothing. What remains? At least when I try this gives me some proof that I still care a little bit, although the comfort I used to feel in that thought has all but vanished more recently.

There is a holy desire in the midst of all this, and it will prevail, I'm sure. But, ultimately, faith, hope and love are not feelings, but convictions of the mind and will, and gifts from God as well. Feelings come and go, and periods of aridity are often in-between times when the affective system is re-adjusting around a deeper center of meaning and value. People who go chasing after experiences never come to integration at these depths, but just go around in circles, as the devil introduces ever-new "attractions" and diversions away from surrender to God.

Do you believe the Gospel and the teachings of the Church about Christ? Do you strive to live the kind of life Christ calls us to live? Do you take time for prayer and other spiritual disciplines to open yourself to the guidance of the Spirit? Do you belong to a Christian community and show up to worship and offer your gifts in service?
- If you can say yes to these questions, then have no fear, you are still a Christian. If you sin on occasion, then welcome to the human race. Ask God's forgiveness, resolve to sin no more, and take practical steps to avoid the near occasion of sin.

I think Derek's suggestion about taking a break or retreat is a good one. I've also found it helpful to return to the Scriptures when things start to get too confusing. God communicates to us through Scripture, and taking time for Lectio Divina a great way to re-focus. Take several periods a day, if necessary. It helps.

Way back when, we had a discussion here on "The God dimension of experience." Perhaps it would be good to visit this discussion, as it was a very rich one, with many good contributors.
- http://shalomplace.org/eve/for...?r=51810075#51810075
 
Posts: 3605 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata Page 1 2 3  
 

ShalomPlace.com    Shalom Place Community    Shalom Place Discussion Groups  Hop To Forum Categories  General Discussion Forums  Hop To Forums  Christian Spirituality Issues    The "Buddhification" of Christian contemplative spirituality